From punk slammers to baroque-rock epics
Since they got past their inception as bored Cali stoners, Green Day have rarely settled. Surging forward into political climes, there’ve been stumbles along the way, but punk icon Billie Joe Armstrong and his wacky rhythm section – drummer Tre Cool and bassist/Putin-lookalike Mike Dirnt – have remained at the top of the rocks for over thirty years.
With punk-rock pit-starters and huge, 10-minute epics sitting comfortably alongside each other in Green Day’s packed-out canon, below we pick through their 12 studio albums to compile the very best Green Day playlist.
- Horseshoes And Handgrenades
Taken from their stumbling 2009 ‘21st Century Breakdown’ LP, ‘Horseshoes and Handgrenades’ was nevertheless a roaring anthem worthy of playlists and best-ofs. “I’m not fuckin’ around!” Billie Joe barks as the track kicks into life, and while the record itself might’ve lacked somewhat, this track in particular harnessed the bitterness and anger of Green Day’s best with style.
- Bang Bang
Their most brittle release in a decade, ‘Bang Bang’ was the crown jewel of their 2016 return-to-form record ‘Revolution Radio’. A grisly tale told from the perspective of a school shooter, it harboured Green Day’s new-age political slant amongst some of their most frantic, scrappy sounds in years.
Proof that you can still express youthful disillusionment without heaps of distortion, ‘Warning’ is a snotty, folk-ish ode to kicking back and enjoying the impending apocalypse. “Get your philosophy from a bumper sticker,” snarks Billie Joe – an early nod to his latter-day life as a political punk icon.
- Having A Blast
Another violent Green Day classic, this one’s title doesn’t refer to having fun, but actually to blowing things up. Cheerful. “No one else is getting out alive,” Billie Joe croons, “this time I’ve really lost my mind and I don’t care.” The first evidence that Green Day’s early slacker anthems could take a darker, political tone.
“Down with the moral majority,” is perhaps the last sentiment you’d expect the nouveau woke Green Day of the last decade-and-a-half, but on their 2000 LP ‘Warning’ – itself a wall-to-wall celebration of personal freedom – it made for one of their most unifying hooks.
- Geek Stink Breath
A grotty ode to drug use and Billie Joe’s love of a “thick white line”, ‘Geek Stink Breath’ still holds up as a party anthem, whether you’re into the nose naughties or not. Scratchy power chords and a tightly-tuned snare rocket things forward on one of Green Day’s most straight-up punk slammers, from 1995’s appropriately-titled ‘Insomniac’ LP.
The opener to their still-essential ‘Dookie’ LP, ‘Burnout’’s snare triplet intro is drilled into the long-term memories of a thousand air-drumming ex-punk-kids. Kickstarting one of the finest albums punk rock has ever produced, the tale of youthful apathy is as relevant today as it was in 1994.
Sign up for the newsletter
- Welcome To Paradise
One of their more socially-conscious early tracks, ‘Welcome To Paradise’ tracks Billie Joe’s conflicted emotions about coming from the rougher end of town. An anthem that celebrates their humble beginnings, it remains a fan favourite.
- Brain Stew
Lurching forwards,’Brain Stew’’s three-chord wonder hits as hard as any early heavy-metal band – slap on some more doom and this riff could slot straight into the Black Sabbath back catalogue. In Green Day’s hands, though, it becomes a scrappy tale of insomnia, buoyed by Billie Joe’s increasingly maddened, semi-screeched vocal.
Built around a rubber-stringed bassline that’s been top of any novice bassist’s ‘to learn’ list for over two decades, ‘Longview’ is a slacker’s dream. Watching telly, smoking weed and, er, wanking – it’s all centred around a typical teenage boy’s day off, and the intense boredom such things bring.
- American Idiot
Green Day’s most famous track by a country mile, the title-track to their world-beating 2004 album is an unavoidable modern rock classic. It’s taken on new life in recent years, with the track frequently wielded as a weapon against the quintessential American idiot, US President Donald Trump.
- Basket Case
Lighting the fuse on Green Day’s first mainstream explosion, ‘Basket Case’’s warped video was a mainstay of the early MTV days. Bringing punk-rock to the masses like never before, it’s both an important track for Green Day and for rock music at large.
- Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)
A night-closing alt-club epic, this hug-inducing banger still stands up as one of modern rock’s most perfect acoustic numbers. We dare you to try not to belt along to Billie Joe’s most pint-swigging, euphoric lyrics from across Green Day’s canon – this guy’s got the right idea.
The biggest belter in Green Day’s festival main-stage arsenal, buoyed my gang vocals and a marching-style drum beat, ‘Holiday’ is Green Day’s best attempt at fusing huge political statements with arena-rock sensibility. A flawless fusion of angst, anger and a massive fuck-you to the political establishment, with a ripping solo and chant-along middle-eight to boot, ‘Holiday’ is punk-rock perfection.
- Jesus Of Suburbia
Few bands could wield punk-rock into such ornate, baroque epics, but Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ resurgence proved they weren’t like most other bands. An epic in every since of the word, ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’’s 9-minute epic remains one of the best examples of modern rock ambition.